Artist, art critic, educator, social thinker and true polymath, John Ruskin (1819-1900) devoted his life to the pursuit of knowledge. To mark the bicentenary of his birth, a new exhibition produced by Two Temple Place, Museums Sheffield and the Guild of St George, will celebrate the legacy and enduring relevance of Ruskin’s ideas and vision. John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing will bring together over 190 paintings, drawings, daguerreotypes, metal work, and plaster casts to illustrate how Ruskin’s attitude to aesthetic beauty shaped his radical views on culture and society.
“John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing”
26 January – 22 April, 2019
Two Temple Place
2 Temple Pl, London
Opening at Two Temple Place on 26 January 2019; John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing, will reveal how his influence is still felt today in current debates on arts, education, the economy and the environment. Fundamentally, Ruskin wanted to make Britain a better place to live. Ruskin’s work in social and cultural politics went on to influence many leading figures, including Mahatma Gandhi, William Morris, Ebenezer Howard, architect of the Garden City movement, and many founder members of the Labour Party. His name is also cited in the foundation of the National Trust and in the origins of the Welfare State.
A staunch advocate of life-long-learning and the importance of observation and close-looking, Ruskin believed progress could be made by making art, books and cultural treasures available to all. With the help of the Guild of St George; the educational organisation which he founded in 1871, Ruskin created an eclectic collection of watercolours, drawings, prints, plaster casts, minerals, illustrated books, and manuscripts, and established a museum to display them in Sheffield.
Whilst holding a deep admiration for the skill of Sheffield’s metalworkers and artisans, Ruskin felt Sheffield’s workforce was confined by modern industry. He therefore founded St George’s Museum as an educational resource to engage local workers. The museum was built on a hilltop to entice people out of the smoky city, offering views over the Derbyshire landscape and a space to inspire creative thought.
The exhibition will showcase significant objects from The Ruskin Collection including Ruskin’s St George and the Dragon, after Carpaccio (1872), and the ‘De Croy’ Book of Hours, an exquisitely illustrated religious manuscript dating from the 15th century. Bunney’s striking 7’5ft oil painting Western Façade of San Marco (1882) will demonstrate Ruskin’s fascination for the architecture of Venice, while his deep passion for the natural world will be represented by carefully- observed studies of botany, geology, ornithology and landscape including John James Audubon’s White Pelican (1836) and an array of dazzling minerals and geological specimens. The exhibition will also feature examples of hand-crafted furniture from the original St George’s Museum.
In addition to Sheffield’s Guild of St George Ruskin Collection, John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing will draw on the rich collections of both regional and national public museums and galleries, including, The Ashmolean; Calderdale Museums; The Fitzwilliam; Gallery Oldham; The Ruskin Library, Lancaster; Leeds Museums and Art Gallery; Tate; Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village and the William Morris Gallery. Key loans include Ruskin’s Kapellbrücke, Lucerne (1861), on loan from The Ashmolean, and J.M.W. Turner’s Pass of St Gotthard, near Faido (c.1842-3) and Venetian Festival (c.1845), from Tate.
The exhibition will also feature newly commissioned works including site-specific installations from Timorous Beasties and Grizedale Arts, a new moving image piece by Dan Holdsworth and contributions from artists Hannah Downing and Emilie Taylor which will explore Ruskin’s contemporary legacy.